A Sexy Beast, At Once Funky and Classic

Guild has proved they are ever serious about maintaining their storied legacy with this impeccable resurrection of the S-200 Thunderbird. The moment I began playing mine it was pure love.

Iíve owned and/or played many MIA Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles, and this MIK axe is as finely crafted as any of them, which tells me Guild set out to stake its brand on this product. Appearance wise, itís elixir to the eyes, dripping with elegance and sex appeal; photos donít do it justice. Its body, slimmer than a Stratís, rings punchy and warm with crystalline overtones, and its contours conspire to render it cozy in the embrace. The finish, detailing, nickel plating, the neckís binding and fingerboard inlays, all exude expert craftsmanship. When Iím not playing it, itís placed prominently in my studio for visitors to behold.

Now on to the electronics, which takes the S-200 to a next level. Guild LB-1 pickups are simply my favorite Iíve ever had on a guitar, and Iíve been playing electrics for almost 35 years now, about evenly between stage and studio. The LB-1s have more tonal nuance than dual-coil pickups on other guitars Iíve played. The best way I can think of to describe it, is they sound tempered in the midrange to a degree that offers more definition and balance. They also seem sensitive to the instrumentís mahogany resonances in flattering ways. I donít need to reach much for the Baxendall EQ on my Manley channel strip when Iím recording this guitar, and if I do reach, itís only to subtly enhance whatís already there.

Which brings us to the S-200ís switching options, where thereís a certain genius at work in the circuitís architecture. It centers on a two-position switch which Guild calls the guitarís ďModeĒ switch, and each mode has its own set of volume and tone knobs. In its up position, the mode switch puts the S-200 in a neck pickup-only setting, bypassing the rest of the circuit, and in that mode, this guitar sounds singularly sublime, like nothing else Iíve played before, rich with silky brown butter on the bottom, and crispy cool Riesling on top.

In the Mode switchís down position, a panel of three switches is activated, and with it, a wide spectrum of numerous tonal options. When I cycled through a bunch of songs by a variety of famous bands, I could approximate the guitar tone of each song by manipulating this panel. Being a producer/composer who does a lot of home recording, this tonal versatility is a key feature for me: the ability to dial in various sounds from the guitar, rather than reaching for the recording gear, or worse, mangling the sound with plugins. But I imagine a cover band guitarist would love this too, the ability to mimic the sounds of a wide variety of recognizable tunes.

Of course, the S-200 brings its own tone and texture to the mix, in the best way. Take it to a quiet room, not plugged into anything, just strum an open Emaj, and youíll hear the depth. Place your ear against its body and hit the low E string, and youíll get all kinds of character. Itís an instrument that gives back to you more than merely what you play on it, and itís inspiring stuff. Bravo to Guild.